Cody Thomas: “Kids Are Amazing”

Two days after the death of Cody Thomas, Staples High School students recalled him as one of the most caring and committed teachers they’d ever had. 

The roots of that concern are evident in an article Thomas — who began his career as a journalist — wrote for CT Mirror in December 2014, after his 1st year in the classroom.

Describing teenagers, Thomas said:

Kids are amazing — way more incredible than most adults. The students I teach are wonderful, brilliant, and creative. If they don’t always act that way, it’s because of some undefined deadening effect caused by school.

Cody Thomas, at Staples High School's graduation last year.

Cody Thomas, at Staples High School’s graduation last year.

I hope to always be able to work against the negative and to restore hope in our school systems. Can a naïve, young teacher change the life of one student? Probably not, but he or she can hope.

On my first day of teaching, I went over classroom procedures and emphasized the fact that I expected students at 16 to be mature most of the time. “Most of the time,” was key to my rhetoric.

“I’m 24,” I told them. “I’m not mature all of the time.”

Despite an entire world of influences pulling me in different directions, I wanted my classroom to be a place for taking risks. Treat kids like adults, and more often than not they will act like adults.

An email from superintendent of schools Elliott Landon to parents earlier today said that Thomas’ death has been declared a suicide.

(Click here for the full CT Mirror story by Cody Thomas.)

12 responses to “Cody Thomas: “Kids Are Amazing”

  1. Sherri Wolfgang-Peyser

    My heart breaks for this young man, his family and all the many students who adored him and now sadly mourn him.

    In all the press that I read about Mr. Thomas, there is no mention of depression or mental health.

    The expression “Dying of depression” gives the illness some dignity that it deserves.

    Within the last month there have been 2 young men that died of depression. I hope that Staples can bring in a source of insight from organizations like NAMI.
    (National Alliance Mental Illness)

    Let’s all try to keep the conversation open with our children, peers and our community. Please let’s break the stigma so that young people will be more educated and know there are other options.

    • I’ve often wondered if suicide is sometimes caused by a sudden severe reaction to something. The young (and happy) Fairfield County dad who jumped in front of a train an hour after receiving a pink slip from his office comes to mind. Perhaps professionals need to look at this, too. That’s not depression.

      • Nancy Hunter Wilson

        Depression is very easy to hide.

        • It has to be a pretty complex phenomenon. I can’t believe everyone who kills themselves is depressed. Some people have to just snap.. out of the blue. What I am looking for is a set of symptoms, other than the ones that are common to suicide, that we can teach people, especially young people, to look out for in themselves. What scares me is that people don’t talk about it. I think we need to think about it, talk about it, theorize about it, if only to take away the drama of it. The pain it causes to family and friends is too great not to give this its proper attention. The fact that it’s taboo is evidence that this needs more study. If people only knew how much of life there is “out there” to discover in music, art, nature, a baby’s smile, a dog’s wagging tail or a cat’s purr!! And if all people only knew much they are loved!!

  2. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    Heartbreaking to loose one so young and so brilliant and able to inspire others to such a nasty disease and it is a nasty disease. Thank You Dan for your sensitive reporting and Sherri for your insight and compassion.

  3. Really sad. He sounds like the kind of teacher any of us would have been honored and blessed to hare.

  4. I truly believe a teacher can make a difference in a student’s life!

  5. Marcia Wright

    The fact that two SHS lives have been tragically lost to suicide in the past month–as Sheri mentions–indicates that there is a need for the Westport community to come together and have honest discussions about what needs to be changed, so that individuals facing such a dire choice will be able to find alternatives without the stigma so often attached to the problem(s) that drove them to consider taking their lives in the first place.

  6. Reading these thoughtful comments, with concern for the well-being of our children and all members of our community, fills me with hope. I plan to take just a little more time to be kind in all my interactions – and I invite all who are feeling stressed-out to do the same. I support the idea of welcoming specialists who can guide healing discussions on mental health in our community.

  7. As a mental health professional in the community and mother of two former Staples students, I am saddened by the tragic loss of Cody Thomas.
    I also see this as an opportunity for parents of Staples students to offer their children support and education. As parents, we have much wisdom and experience to share with our children. For teenagers, it can be confusing that someone they looked up to, someone who was a mentor, is gone, due to suicide. It is important to tell your child that one doesn’t commit suicide. It is biological. The brain is temporarily very confused. Part of feeling depressed is having feelings that are alien to how you see yourself.

  8. Luisa Francoeur

    There are two websites that are great resources:
    1. http://www.swrmhb.org: “Mental health initiatives, events, trainings, and resources in Southwestern Connecticut”
    2. http://turningpointct.org: “developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. While we’re not clinicians, we know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help. Fortunately, we found what worked for us. Our goal is to provide information and support to help you choose your path so that you don’t have to struggle the way we did.”

  9. Cathy Rozynek

    Thursday night at 7PM in the Branson Hall at Christ and Holy Trinity Church a local group of practitioners and educators will be sponsoring a talk by Lisa Athan, a nationally renowned Grief Recovery Specialist. This event is meant for parents, teachers, and practitioners to discuss thoughtful responses to sudden loss.The presentation will provide information about how teens both cope with and talk about grief. There will also be discussions on how we can nurture healing in our teens, our communities, and ourselves after a tragedy. It’s been a terrible time for our town…let’s start the conversation to make things better!